Buy the books
Independent booksellers reign at Dewey, Bethany, Rehoboth and Lewes- it’s a Barnes & Noble-free zone. In the evenings, on rainy days and during the popular children’s story hour, the screen doors of these bookstores snap as browsers stroll in for books to read under beach umbrellas, on the deck or in bed, with the roar of the waves in the background. Last summer’s best sellers were “The Nanny Diaries,” “Beach House” and “Bel Canto.” This season’s predicted big beach reads include “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” James Patterson’s “The Lake House,” Jane Smiley’s “Good Faith” and Hillary Clinton’s new memoir “Living History.”
By Kathy Hudson
Books by the Bay
owners: Donald Ross, who founded nearby Wilmington College and is president of Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla., bought the store in January. It is currently located in the historic Rodney House, a charming cedar-shingled building built in 1790, but in late summer will move around the corner to 111 Bank St. “My wife, Helen, and I have been part-time Lewes residents for almost 15 years,” says Ross. “When we learned that longtime owner John Alwood was retiring and the book inventory would be available, we decided this would be an excellent opportunity for the future. Having been in the education field for all of our adult lives, it was a natural.”
owner’s favorite book: “Le Petit Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupery.
synopsis: In its current location, Books by the Bay is the quaintest bookstore at the beach, with worn hardwood floors and an original brick fireplace. At its new digs, the store will have room for an internet café and outdoor seating for dining.
103 2nd St., 302-645-2304, Hours: 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Sun. Volumes in store: 5,000.
owners: Longtime owner Steve Crane, a former school teacher who grew up at the Delaware-New Jersey beaches, opened Browseabout in 1975 with his wife, Barbara, also a school teacher. They began by taking three small stores at 11 Rehoboth Ave. and knocking out the walls to make three alcoves: one for toys, one for gifts and one for books. They moved to their present location in 1980 and gradually expanded to become one of the best-known independents in the country. “People say I’m lucky to have a beach business like this,” says Steve Crane. “I say, ‘I’m lucky I like to work.’ We have a passion for books and a passion for working hard.”
owners’ favorite authors: Steve likes Wilbur Smith and anything by Bryce Courtney, Jack Higgins or Robert Ludlum. Barbara prefers Dorothy Sayers, Agatha Christie, P.G. Wodehouse.
synopsis: This oldest and largest of the beach bookstores features a “gently used” books section, large fiction and mystery sections, many signed books and a watering station out front for dogs. The stationery department features 25 lines of cards, all of the Marcel Schurman products, handmade Italian leather journals, scrapbooks, photo albums and more.
Special events include readings and signings with local and national authors, and book group meetings.
133 Rehoboth Ave., 302-226-BOOK (2665), Hours: 6 a.m.-11 p.m. in summer, 7 a.m.-6 p.m. in winter. Children’s story hour: Mondays and Wednesdays during July and August. Volumes in store: 70,000. Food: Coffee, tea, cold drinks and baked goods.
owner: Highway One Limited Partnership is the store’s owner, but Chris Weeks is general manager and has been on-site daily since Booksandcoffee opened in May 2001. Weeks has a background in engineering and architecture and has risen through the ranks of the book-selling business, ending up executive general manager of the Borders store in White Flint Mall. When he and his wife decided to raise their children at the beach, he thought he was finished with books, until he heard that a bookstore was slated to open in Ruddertowne. Not only did he design the store, he has built the business from the start.
manager’s favorite books: “Blue Latitudes” by Tony Horwitz and “Devil in the White City” by Erik Larson.
synopsis: This newest bookstore is the only one at the Delaware beaches that features an Internet café and sells Starbucks coffee. A full-time events coordinator plans the store’s many events, from a year-round poetry series, to weekly signings in the summer, to a Sweet Potato Queens Weekend with author Jill Conner Browne and Nashville singer-songwriter Kacey Jones. This summer, in addition to a Harry Potter release party, the store will host a weekly coffeehouse night with open mike for poets, singers and songwriters.
113 Dickinson St. at Ruddertowne, 302-226-9959, Hours: 7 a.m.-10 p.m. in summer, 7:30 a.m.-6 p.m. in winter. Volumes in store: 15,000. Food: Starbucks coffee, cold drinks and baked goods.
Bethany Beach Books
owner: Nancy Oppenheim combined the expertise gained from a master’s degree in library science and a career as a financial consultant to open this beach bookstore in 1991. She and her husband live at the beach in the summer and divide the rest of the year between Bethany and Columbia. Six years ago, she moved her shop from its smaller, original location near the town center to this prime location near the boardwalk. “I love the ambience,” says Oppenheim. “We require our employees to go up on the boardwalk and look at the ocean at least once a day.”
owner’s favorite books: “Blue Highways” by William Least Heat-Moon; “Comfort me with Apples” by Ruth Reichl; Katharine Graham’s “A Personal History”; and Meg Greenfield’s “Washington.”
synopsis: As the most jam-packed-with-books bookstore at the beaches, all the walls, and even the supporting columns, are lined with books, books on tape, maps, cards, puzzles and a few CDs. There’s a comfy couch at the center of the store where someone is always reading. Two book clubs meet here and special events include 10 to 12 author signings each summer. On July 16, the store hosts children’s author Nancy Carol Willis, and on July 27, Baltimore mystery writer Tim Cockey makes an in-store appearance.
99 Garfield Parkway, 302-539-2522 or 800-509-2384, http://www.bethanybeachbooks.com, Hours: 9 a.m.-11 p.m. in summer, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. in winter. Children’s story hour: Several times each summer. Volumes in store: 28,000.